Most people agree that sex ought to be consensual.
Put another way, they think that no one should be forced to have sex against their will. And that if someone engages in sex without the consent of the other party, then it is sexual assault – and a moral horror.
Well, what about being governed without consent?
Does it not amount to the same thing?
It may not be a sexual assault, but it is certainly assault.
There is one difference, of course.
The people who compose the government and the people who support what it does to you claim you have consented. This necessary claim – without consent, their actions are obviously assault – is asserted so frequently and so early that it becomes rote despite being obviously untrue. Kids hear of it in elementary school, where they are taught to venerate the man who had the audacity to speak of the “consent of the governed” while repudiating it through force of arms.
Consent means: permission given for something to happen or an agreement to do something.
Implicit in this – without which the word has no meaning – is the option to not give permission; to decline to agree to do something. Otherwise, you’re simply told what you will do and your only choice is to accept it or accept being punished for not accepting it.
Some will say you do have a say – that you may vote. But that is not the same thing as giving your consent and it certainly doesn’t give you the right to consent for others.
Which is an absurdity.
Voting amounts to being presented with usually disagreeable choices not of your own making and no option to refuse any of them. If you don’t vote, others choose – and by some evil transmutation, the choices of these other people become (legally) binding on you.
How can this be characterized as the “consent of the governed”?
It’s clever wordplay, that’s all. Of a piece with the elegant preface to that contract none of us consented to called the Constitution of the United States. It states: “We, the People. . . ”
It really means: A few people. The literal handful of men who gathered in secret and without any mandate from other people let alone We, the People – to write this document, which they then managed to get a slightly larger but still minuscule number of supposed “representatives” of the people to accept on their behalf but without their actual consent.
Votes were taken, certainly. And it is equally true that some did in fact approve. A majority of a very small minority. But no contract was presented to every American for his agreement or not. Which – if words have meaning – means those Americans never consented to be governed by it. Their consent was simply presumed – exactly in the same way that a rapist sometimes claims she meant “yes” even though she said “no.”
One may say that the logistics involved in presenting a contract to every American for his approval – or not – would be difficult. Absolutely. But it does not affect the question of consent. People either did – or they did not.
Most clearly did not.
How many signatures are on the document? Is it 330 million? 100 million? Even 3,929,314? The latter being the number of Americans alive in 1789, the year the Constitution was “ratified” by a much smaller number of Americans.
Thirty nine Americans, to be specific. These thirty nine affixed their signatures – so the Constitution can rightly (morally) be said to bind them. But that leaves 3,929,275 Americans who did not affix their signatures and who therefore did not consent to it. Their consent was simply presumed by the 39 – which is a species of effrontery words are inadequate to convey.
If even a third of those 3,929,275 million people wanted no part of the Constitution – wished to not be governed by anyone other than themselves – the thing is outrageous. Poultices such as “representation” and “democracy” are offered to sooth the wound, but they do not alter the fact that whatever the thing is, it is not done with the consent of the governed.
And – as the great 19th century Libertarian writer Lysander Spooner pointed out – those 39 signers well as all the “representatives” of the time – are long-ago dead and buried. There is not a single living person who has formally given consent to be governed by the Constitution. Some 330 million Americans are nonetheless bound by the dead hands of 39 Americans.
How is this different than a claim that an indenture contract signed in the year 1680 is binding on that man’s great-great-great-great grandson?
Thomas Jefferson wrote that one generation has no moral right to bind another. He was partially right about that. No individual has the right to bind any other individual. You may only consent for yourself, not for others.
And if they have not given their consent, then you have no more right to presume they have given it – and to act on that presumption – than a sex fiend has the right to presume his victim is a willing participant in his degradations.
. . .
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